It’s the end of the world and we know it: Scientists in many disciplines see apocalypse, soon

GR:  Here’s an article that I hope at least my friends and family read. If it doesn’t worry and motivate you, then you are a victim of “willful blindness” a cognitive condition that can be either conscious or subconscious. You can recover from the subconscious condition, but it’s usually after you’ve fallen in a hole and wonder “why didn’t I see this coming.” However, you can make a conscious effort to reassess your beliefs and act to avoid the hole. And I assume that this is what’s going to happen as demonstrations like the massive climate march that just filled Pennsylvania Avenue continue to grow.

Credit: Getty/Everlite/Leon Neal/Photo Montage by Salon

“While apocalyptic beliefs about the end of the world have, historically, been the subject of religious speculation, they are increasingly common among some of the leading scientists today. This is a worrisome fact, given that science is based not on faith and private revelation, but on observation and empirical evidence.

“Perhaps the most prominent figure with an anxious outlook on humanity’s future is Stephen Hawking. Last year, he wrote the following in a Guardian article:

Now, more than at any time in our history, our species needs to work together. We face awesome environmental challenges: climate change, food production, overpopulation, the decimation of other species, epidemic disease, acidification of the oceans. Together, they are a reminder that we are at the most dangerous moment in the development of humanity. We now have the technology to destroy the planet on which we live, but have not yet developed the ability to escape it.

“There is not a single point here that is inaccurate or hyperbolic. For example, consider that the hottest 17 years on record have all occurred since 2000, with a single exception (namely, 1998 [hottest on record to that point]), and with 2016 being the hottest ever. Although 2017 probably won’t break last year’s record, the UK’s Met Office projects that it “will still rank among the hottest years on record.” Studies also emphasize that there is a rapidly closing window for meaningful action on climate change. As the authors of one peer-reviewed paper put it [PDF paper published in Nature, Climate Change]:

The next few decades offer a brief window of opportunity to minimize large-scale and potentially catastrophic climate change that will extend longer than the entire history of human civilization thus far. Policy decisions made during this window are likely to result in changes to Earth’s climate system measured in millennia rather than human lifespans, with associated socioeconomic and ecological impacts that will exacerbate the risks and damages to society and ecosystems that are projected for the twenty-first century and propagate into the future for many thousands of years.

“Furthermore, studies suggest that civilization will have to produce more food in the next 50 years than in all of human history, which stretches back some 200,000 years into the Pleistocene epoch. This is partly due to the ongoing problem of overpopulation, where Pew projects approximately 9.3 billion people living on spaceship Earth by 2050. According to the 2016 Living Planet Report, humanity needs 1.6 Earths to sustain our current rate of (over)consumption — in other words, unless something significant changes with respect to anthropogenic resource depletion, nature will force life as we know it to end.

“Along these lines, scientists largely agree that human activity has pushed the biosphere into the sixth mass extinction event in the entire 4.5 billion year history of Earth. This appears to be the case even on the most optimistic assumptions about current rates of species extinctions, which may be occurring 10,000 times faster than the normal “background rate” of extinction. Other studies have found that, for example, the global population of wild vertebrates — that is, mammals, birds, reptiles, fish and amphibians — has declined by a staggering 58 percent between 1970 and 2012. The biosphere is wilting in real time, and our own foolish actions are to blame.” –Phil Torres (Continue: It’s the end of the world and we know it: Scientists in many disciplines see apocalypse, soon – Salon.com.)

Act now before entire species are lost to global warming, say scientists

GR:  The top two threats to species are habitat loss due to human farming and construction and the spread of invasive plants and animals. We have expected climate to catch up, and here is clear evidence that this is so. What can we do? Simple, stop destroying habitat, ignoring invasive species, and burning coal, oil, and gas. Simple to say, that is, but probably impossible to do.

“The impact of climate change on threatened and endangered wildlife has been dramatically underreported, with scientists calling on policymakers to act urgently to slow its effects before entire species are lost for good.

“New analysis has found that nearly half (47%) of the mammals and nearly a quarter (24.4%) of the birds on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) red list of threatened species are negatively impacted by climate change – a total of about 700 species. Previous assessments had said only 7% of listed mammals and 4% of birds were impacted.

“Many experts have got these climate assessments wrong – in some cases, massively so,” said Dr James Watson of the University of Queensland, who co-authored the paper with scientists in the UK, Italy and the US.

“Published in the Nature Climate Change journal, the analysis of 130 studies reported between 1990 and 2015 painted a grim picture of the impact of the changing climate on birds and mammals already under threat.” –Elle Hunt (More:  Act now before entire species are lost to global warming, say scientists | Environment | The Guardian.)

Taking the Lives of Wolves

Without Respect for the Innocent

We kill by accident as we drive the roads we built over the woods and prairies, we kill by accident when we hide the land beneath houses and farms, and we kill on purpose when we seek excitement to end the life of a one-time enemy who is now our friend.  Here’s a poem by Mary de la Valette:

wolves-runningThey have run all day
With the Caribou,
Now, silvered shadows
On the moonlit tundra
They gather.
In one small last circle
They raise their heads
In ageless ritual
And sing.
A planetary, timeless howl.

And the wind
Takes their song
In her arms
And scatters it
Like silver rain
Over the earth.
And the last whales
Sing
For the wolves.
And the last elephants
Lift their great heads
And sing.
And all the earth’s children
Sing for the wolves
For they know
What tomorrow brings.

And the wolves
In their silver circle
Sing for life
Sing for the earth
Sing for t he Caribou
For they know
The men in helicopters
Wait.

And tomorrow
They will run with the caribou
Run for life.

By Mary de la Valette

romeo-the-black-wolf-of-alaska Nick Jans

Faster than Expected – Nature Bats Last

GR: Here are the arguments for near-term-extinction of humanity and most complex life on Earth. Personally, I can’t believe that we will all be dead in 10 years. I think it’s a mental block of some kind. Nevertheless, I feel compelled to read the arguments. Things are going to get bad, but I know that without a catastrophic methane release, it may be centuries, before the last shreds of our civilization disappear. It’s probably too late to prevent our extinction, but understanding the arguments lets us see how grave our predicament and it might help us support the right attempts to dampen the rate of climate change.

Almost lifeless Earth.

Almost lifeless Earth.

“As I’ve pointed out previously, I doubt there will be a human on Earth by mid-2026. Indeed, I doubt there will be complex life on this planet by then. It’ll be a small world, as was the case in the wake of each of the five prior Mass Extinction events on Earth. Bacteria, fungi, and microbes will dominate.

“As I’ve pointed out repeatedly, humans will lose habitat on Earth before the last human dies. The final human probably will die after running out of canned food in a bunker. And he or she will not know human extinction has occurred.

“According to the Pentagon’s JASON Group, the situation for life on Earth will be far worse than I have ever described. A well-informed insider there wrote on 19 December 2016: “THE JASON GROUP at the Pentagon is getting new data (upon my constant requests) that the effect of over 450 reactors melting down will most likely destroy the Ozone layers. Rather than going Venus Earth will end up more like Mars. Very dead with almost no chance to regenerate an atmosphere. Report to be published in 2017.”

“The ice-free Arctic predicted by the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School in 2016, + 3 years, seems likely in 2017. Arctic ice is very fragile. Regardless when it arrives, the near-term ice-free Arctic will be experienced by humans for the first time. Ever. This event might trigger the 50-Gt burst of methane forecast by Shakhova and colleagues at the European Geophysical Union annual meeting in 2008 (“we consider release of up to 50 Gt of predicted amount of hydrate storage as highly possible for abrupt release at any time”). I reasonably use the ice-free Arctic as a proxy for this first burst of atmospheric methane. After all, it’s been “highly possible for abrupt release at any time” for nearly a decade. In May 2015, Shakhova lied about the research group’s earlier statement about an abrupt release of methane — when she could have easily retracted the statement — saying, “We never stated that 50 gigatonnes is likely to be released in near or distant future.”

“The first 50-gigatonne burst of methane described by Shakhova et al. translates to a global temperature rise of 1.3 C, which causes civilization to collapse because grains cannot be grown at scale. Industrial civilization, as with its predecessors, requires grain production and storage. This abrupt rise in temperature would be felt within a few weeks in the Northern Hemisphere — where nearly all civilization-supporting grains are grown — and within a year throughout the world. It would take Earth’s global-average temperature well beyond the point that has supported humans in the past. Ever.Lack of global dimming adds another ~3 C. Earth is then ~6 C above the 1750 baseline by the following spring (2018?). About 2/3 of the temperature rise comes within a few months. I doubt there’s habitat for humans or many other animals at that point. After all, the slow rise in global-average temperature documented so far outstrips the ability of vertebrates to adapt by more than 10,000 times.” –Guy McPherson (More:  Faster than Expected – Nature Bats Last).